12 Feb 2008
My wife was persuading me for last 6 years to do the Manjinikkara Pilgrimage. Each time I found some reason and postponed it. This year finally we decided to do it. Every year thousands of devotees walk from Ernakulam, Kottayam, Kothamangalam to the Manjinikkara Dayra during the second week Feb to pray and celebrate at the anniversary of the Bhava( Ignathiyoos Elias 111- The Patriacah who visited Malankara in 1930's).
Manjinikkara is situated in Omallor panchyath of Pathanamthitta district of Kerala. We wanted to join the pilgrimage procession at Peruva, Kottayam (where my wife's house is situated) and decided to walk almost 100 kms and reach the church. I tried to convince her we will walk from Puthuppally where my home is situated by saving 40 kms. But she was adamant of walking from Peruva.
The procession started from various parts of Ernakulam and reached Peruva on 12th Feb 2008 evening. We joined the procession at the Peruva church where we attended the evening prayer. We started walking immediately after evening prayer around 7:45 PM. The actual procession is supposed to start only 9 PM. I was little skeptical of walking before actual procession because safety reasons as we are walking in the night. But to my surprise there were thousands already in the road walking. I never had an opportunity in my life to see this procession before. This is mainly because I was born and brought up by parents belonging Orthodox church which is warring faction of Jacobite church which conducts this pilgrimage.
My wife also belongs Orthodox church but her father is named after the saint of Manjinikkara. In my family half of my cousins are in orthodox and rest are in the Jacobite church, the warring factions. I studied Sunday school of orthodox church and also tried to read a lot about the fight from both angles. I felt it is personnel egos of leaders and family ego's rich families who controls the church are root cause of the fight. All other reason which floats around are just to give some theatrical justification for what they are doing. As most of devotees belonging to these warring factions we also cross visit all the churches, pray to saints etc. So we walking to Manjinikkara was nothing much abnormal.
We walked pretty fast initially and reached Kaduthurthy (8 KMS) by 9:30 PM. oranges, coffee etc are given to us on the road side. We got friend named Ben from Hyderabad during this section of walk. He had walked with us till Neelimangalam next morning. After that we never met him again. After a 15 min rest at Kaduthurthy we started again. The road section contains uphills and downhills. The legs started paining and body is getting tired. The pace at which we are walking is decreased a little bit. But we kept on walking to reach Kurupunthara. We found a catholic church at Kurupunthara Junction and sat in front of the church. The legs were paining and paining. We lied on in front of church. It was 11:15 PM when we reached there.
13 Feb 2008
We took rest for 15 mins and had a Lime juice from a nearby shop and started. Our next stop is Kanakkari UP school where some rest is officially arranged. The legs were paining and paining we sat on the road after a km or two. We didn't carry water at it was night and no option of getting water. Our friend Ben had an orange. We three shared the orange. It was by 1:30 AM next day we reached Kanakkari. We went and lied on the school ground where the rest was arranged. I was lying down on earth and looking at sky. The sky was cloudy. My body was tired and legs are paining. That nights planned target was to reach Neelimanagalm church by dawn. Neelimangalam is at least 10 kms away from where we are. I prayed from my heart "Bhavayee Pray to God to have mercy upon us".
While we were taking rest we saw a lady around 50 years old had Low BP and transported to hospital by Ambulance. We planned to start by 2 AM from there. But it started raining and we had ran for shelter under roof of small shop(kada thinna). It was very crowded there and find a little place and sat on floor. We both sat on the floor and slept. It was another hour when the rain stopped and we started walking immediately after the rain was stopped. While we were waiting for the rain to go off the actual procession also reached this place and they were taking rest till 4:30 am.
It was difficult to keep a foot since the legs were paining. Small sleep we had increased the pain. We have another 10 kms remaining before the next resting point. We started crawling. Each Kilometer was talking double the time( 30 mins). We reached Ettumanoor where procession from the Kothamangalam side joined us. Just before Ettumanoor Junction we got "Pappada Bolly" and coffee. It was too nice. Slowly and Slowly we reached the Ettumanoor junction and lied in front shop at the road side. I couldn't believe that we were lying on road side like beggars. We were so tired and we didn't had any option.
Next 4-5 kms to Neelimangalam was more difficult. After every KM we sat for 10 mins. But the good part was there were lot food given at the road side in this scetion of walk. We some how reached in front of the Thellakam church. I am in a state, where I am not able to keep another foot. My left leg ankle have decent swelling and right leg skin under fingers is bulged out. It took another 1 hour to reach the Junction where Medical college joins MC Road. There was cross which had the holy remains of the saint of Manjinikkara. We prayed at the cross and slowly reached Samkranthi Junction where Neelimangalam church is situated. It is 13th Morning 6 AM. Rest and food are arranged for the pilgrims at the church. We decided to go to my sister place at Kottayam to take rest instead of church. We got into an auto and went to my sis home where hot water, warm bed and coffee was waiting for us. We had quick bath and went to sleep. It was 2 PM in the afternoon when we got up.
The actual procession is also taking rest at the Neelimagalam church and moves to the Shimhasna church, Kottayam same day evening. From Kottayam the procession starts on 14h morning. So we decided to join the procession again on 14h morning at Kottayam. When I got up in the after noon the swelling and pain was reduced. We had walked only 40 KMS. We have walk another 60 KMS ahead to reach the destination. I began to doubt myself if I can do it. The legs are really paining.... I could see lot of old people in 60 and 70 walking. Was wondering how good health they are having... I felt ashamed about myself for feeling very week.
14 Feb 2008
14th Morning we started at 5:30 AM from Kottayam. When we reached the road to we could see thousands walking already although the official procession is supposed to start 6:30 or 7 AM. One day rest had relived us lot from pain. We were walking fast. We got oranges , neyyappam , coffee, banana on the road side. Near chingvanam we had given the oranges to some kids on the road side. We were also invited to have breakfast at couple of homes near chingavanam. But didn't accept as we were full of energy and walked. We reached Chingvanam Dayara church around 8 am. "Kanji" was arranged to the pilgrims at the church.
We had Kanji and hit the road by 8:20 am. The official procession is suppose to start in afternoon from here. But people were already on the road. Sun is getting hot and hot. We went through Kurichy and joined a gang of priest and nuns who was singing and walking. After Thurthy we took a break for 5 mins and had Lime Juice from road side shop. The juice so bad we felt like vomiting.
We started walking again and sun was so hot. No trees on road side and legs started paining. We entered a house near vazhapalli to use the bathroom. The person at that house asked are we newly married couples? He was so surprised when we told we have 4 year old doughter. The night before Ben who walked with till Neelimangalam asked us are we students? And next day again some one asked are we brother and sister? We felt very happy at these questions as looking like in 20's we are in 30's...
When we reached Changanacherry it was around 10:30 AM. We sat at the roadside on floor in front of a shop near SB College. The town is buzzling and we were so tired not even bothered at people staring at us. We found a hotel and had some food. Soon we are walking towards Thiruvalla. The legs are paining and we are tired. We had walked 18 kms from morning. We stopped at a place after Perunna. They were giving biscuits, coffee and hot water etc for the pilgrims. We took a 15 mins break and started again. We were slow in walking and sun is getting hot and hot. We went through Idininjillam. I was persuading my wife to take a bus and go to Thiruvalla. She was not listening to me as usual. Slowly we reached near Pushpagiri Medical college. Juice was arranged by a family there. We tried to have it. It was very sweet and we didn't couuldn't have it. We walked little more had lime juice from a nearby shop. We walked further and reached Perumthurthy by 1 PM. Thriuvalla is still 3-4 KMS away. We wanted to drink buttermilk. We couldn't find a shop where we could get it. We walked again. There were kids of 10 years old walking happily. We felt very jealous of them!!!
It was 1:30 PM and we might have walked another KM again and we were so tired. Thrivalla is still 2 KM away. We took an auto and went to Thrivalla. The Shimashana church is opposite to the private bus stand. We got down and went to church. They were distributing lunch. We got 2 packets and went to search for place to lie down. Although the church was small and crowded we could find a place under fan easily. We both lied and slept there. We woke up around 2:30, had the lunch and slept again. Some one had woken us by 3:30 and given Neyyapam. We had the same and took rest till 4 PM. We felt little fresh after the rest and thought of hitting the road. The church is more crowded now and more people coming and taking rest. Although this church is very small they had very good arrangements for pilgrims including temp bathrooms. It is really helpful.
We were back in road by 4PM. The legs were less paining and we felt little fresh. We met with gang of guys who was walking Ernakulam. We bought some oranges from road side and shared with them also. We might have walked for another 30 mins. It started raining. We ran for some shelter in front of house on road side. We stood there for 45 mins for the rain to finish. They guys gang found a tree with lot of "Champanga" and plucked a few. They had shared it with us also. One of them was demonstrating how to charge a Nokia phone battery using 100 Rs note. It was very interesting.
Around 5:15 we were back in road walking. We went through Kaviyooor, Ervaiparoor etc.. It was getting dark. We were also feeling hungry. We didn't got any food on the way other than an orange distributed from Red Wagoner car. We reached Kumbanad. We want to take some rest. We could find the Bible college of the Pentecostal church. We lied down on the ground of the college. I looked at my left leg ankle. There is decent size swelling on it. We lied down there for 30 mins and hit the road again. We reached Kumbanad town. We found hotel where we had some food. We are recharged after food to walk again. The plan is to reach Chettimukku (Just before Kozencherry) and take rest till next day morning.
We are tired and we couldn't walk. It was pretty dark. Just before pullad we saw a person givng lime juice. He had arranged some chairs for rest. We ran to chairs and took rest. The person who arranged was belonging to marthoma church. But he had lot of stories say about the pilgrimages.
We saw a priest and gang walking. We joined them. I was limping and running to move with the gang. The bag on my back was heavy. Walked and walked and walked. By 11 pm we reached chettimukku. There was no place to sit. All the places like road side, Shops were completely filled. We wanted to lied down some where. We saw board called St. Mary's orthodox church Maramon. We thought going to church sleep in front of it. We stepped into that road which leads to church. The road was dark and couldn't see anything. We got scared. We saw an uncle and aunty walking. We asked them are they going to church for sleeping. We followed them. We saw the orthodox church. The gate was opened. But there was no light in the compound and church was locked. The uncle told there is a Marthoma church nearby. We went to church. It was on top of a hill. We climbed the hill and reached the church. Although the church was not opened the compound gate was open and there was lights also. We got inside the compound and slept in cemented ground. It was very cold. We didn’t had any blanket. The uncle and aunt shared their blanket with us. We slept and slept...
15 Feb 2008
We were wokenup by the loud music of official procession. We looked at the watch. It was almost 5 AM. We thanked to the uncle and aunty who shared blanket for us and started to walk. Since gate of the compound wall of the church was locked we had to jump gate to get out. Outside the gate people were distributing Kappa puzhukku and coffee. We had the food and went to river side. We got into a boat which took us other side of bank. We had to pay 3 Rs/ Per person for the boat charge. On the other side all the house varandhas and compounds were filled with people. People are sleeping in all available places.... We started walking slowly. We went through Aranmula and then to Elanthoor. On the way we got some Idly and sambar from a house. By 8:45 AM we reached Elanthoor. We saw procession from Manarkad area there. We walked for 10 kms in the morning. We took rest again at a road side and sun was getting hot. The church is till 8 KMS away.
I saw my in-laws in the car going to the church to pick us back. They were on the way church to pick us back. We called loud for them. They saw us and stopped the vehicle. Both of our legs were swelling and paining. We decided to get into the car. We got out 1 kms away from church and start walking again. Slowly and slowly we climbed the hill where the church is situated and reached the church!!! WOW!!!! We did it.
We went to tomb of the Bhava. Thanked god who had taken all way to there. Tears were coming out my eyes. There was neyyappam distributed. We got one. Another 15 mins we got into the car and started back. On the way back we visited Parumala, Putuppally and Manarcad churches.
It is great In my life I want to cherish for ever!!! Thank God for making it happen.
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